Monday, April 10, 2006

The poetry of job loss

One more note on "luminous" as a poetry cliché: I would like to plead special exemption for Edward Lear, who wins my prize for the best use of luminous in a poem title: The Dong With the Luminous Nose.

A little more comment on Canada House, from the Guardian. I've been thinking about why I feel it so personally? Not only are the cuts harmful to the eternally under-funded world of Canadian culture, and not only is it tiresome to see what appears to be yet another new government thinking cultural funding is a conveniently disposable column in the spreadsheet - when as the Guardian article demonstrates, it benefits Canada's cultural reputation in ways that go beyond the simply fiscal. But firing people to save money is also just a bad thing for those left behind, forced to try to do more with less, after having just witnessed the disposal of their colleagues.

I was really struck by a CBC Sunday Edition interview with Henry Mintzberg a couple of months ago. He talked about how the heads of organizations are axing not just people but corporate culture and corporate loyalty when they impose economic efficiency without regard for the long term health of the organization. While the big guys cycle through the corporate stratosphere collecting their multi-figure salaries and fiscal incentives, those beneath them are left picking up the pieces and selling themselves on to the highest bidder, because rounds of cost-cutting firings have taught them their experience and their knowledge of their organizations are no longer valued.

When you lose your job, you will be appalled by the swiftness with which a judgment can be made between your years of company-specific experience and skills on the one hand, and your salary on the other. More than that, you discover the obscene vocabulary that has been invented to mask the cruelty and destructiveness of the process. I actually heard someone remark - after the first unannounced round of firings in our company - that it had been a necessary and positive move, because it had eliminated "deadwood". This person had actually hired some of the people who lost their jobs, after a dozen years of service or more. That remark showed me in a single sentence how the company I joined had ceased to be.
Call them
deadwood, downsized or first ones out;
right-sized, rationalized and repositioned;
call them someone we used to work with,
yesterday’s friends bent over their desks
filling shopping bags with coffee mugs
and office tat.

Computer screens gone blind, they are
erased already from the network, relieved
of their keys and shown the exit: dehired,
excessed, and made redundant...
from Survivors, in Cartography)

All fired up now? Canadian poet-workers might like to check out the poetry competition at Living Work.


Blogger Ken Kowal said...

you have just sold a book

6:33 p.m.  

Post a Comment

<< Home